Grand Rapids Neighborhood Calls for Pause on Police Drone Purchase
The West Grand Neighborhood Organization of Grand Rapids has called for a halt on the local Police department's intention to acquire police drones. Despite endorsing the concept of drone usage by the police, the organization's primary concern lies with the transparency and accountability of the technology's use.
In a letter to the Grand Rapids City Commission on May 16, the organization's executive director, Annette Vandenberg, wrote, “At this time, we would ask city leaders to pause the process of adopting (purchasing) this technology to allow for further interaction with community groups, more in keeping with the initial engagement efforts referenced when this discussion started.”
The letter reportedly outlined a number of policy amendments the organization would like to see before any drones are purchased.
These include clear guidelines for authorized use and accountability, timely updates of drone usage on a police-provided dashboard, an easy system for citizens to file complaints, and public access to flight paths and collected data.
The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) has plans to use drones in a variety of situations including dangerous driving, apprehending fleeing felons, reconstructing accident scenes, locating missing people, managing large gatherings, and more.
GRPD spokesperson Jennifer Kalczuk said the request for a pause is premature, as public engagement is still underway and there is no timeline yet for a purchase request.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom previously noted that there are concerns about the overcollection of data and privacy issues associated with drones, but assured these issues would be managed through training, policy, accountability, and oversight from the city's Office of Oversight and Public Accountability.
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